The Minefield of Regret
It’s Sunday and we have nothing planned. Emily’s had a sleepover – so Saturday night was filled with the lovely sound of girls shrieking and laughing, of feet running to and from the upstairs bathroom, of furtive trips down to the kitchen to sneak snacks and drinks back upstairs. Emily’s friend leaves at noon and the entire day is stretched in front of us. Surprisingly, I’m looking forward to running errands as I’ve done on so many unplanned Sundays in the past.
So we go, just Emily and me, even though both of us are feeling a bit off (we have strep, though we don’t know it yet). Our first stop is Target. As I pull into the parking lot, I realize (with a sinking feeling) that I don’t have to park close to spare Ana from walking too far. Ana’s not with us. She’ll never take another Sunday trip to Target again…
I push the thought out of my head as Emily and I walk into the store. I’m good, even happy. We’ve decided to eat healthy and the purpose of this trip is to buy new water bottles (Emily didn’t like that I was using one of Ana’s old water bottles – the one I left untouched on her nightstand for weeks). We find new ones that we’re happy with and delve deeper into the store.
I’m good. I’m fine, until we reach the seasonal aisle where they’re displaying faux wicker lawn furniture, grills, and gardening supplies. Emily heads to a long table that seats six, but I stop. The table is so big and our family is so small. I wonder what kind of table will fit us now.
I think about how we always meant to create a nice outside space where we could set up furniture near the grill, maybe get a giant umbrella and a little fire pit. I cringe as I remember how we laid a dozen or so cement squares crookedly on the grass and dragged our 20-year-old old bistro table to the spot, then surrounded it with rusty chairs. We didn’t sit there often. Eventually we dragged the chairs onto the lawn where it was flatter, more comfortable. I can’t stop the tears as I think about the good intentions of that never-realized outdoor space and how Ana would’ve loved it.
Emily notices, gets annoyed. I tell her I’m just sad for a minute and we move on to the food.
The next punch in the gut comes as we walk through the grocery aisles, cruising past snacks that Ana once loved – pretzels, goldfish, spicy Doritos. Neither of us look. I think about how she couldn’t eat any of these things in the last month. Her appetite was gone, her stomach always hurting her.
We keep walking, intent on buying healthy things. We get strawberries, laughing cow cheese, and pistachios, Kashi cereal and almond milk. I remember I need cat litter, so we swing around and walk into the pet section, where a wave of despair hits me as I walk past a tiny display of brightly colored dog toys. She’s not here to pick out something for Roo.
At this point, all I want to do is leave. We exit the pet section and hang a left. Emily is looking ahead at the makeup department, but I stop in my tracks in front of the paper plate aisle, scanning the shelves for those little plastic condiment cups that we used to store and transport Ana’s meds. They were all over the house, all over her room. I’m still finding them. I urgently need to see the package of tiny cups and pretend that she’s alive, that I’m here to buy more so I can keep giving her her meds. I stand there and let the waves of sadness come because I can’t fight it anymore.
We leave Target feeling exhausted, but manage to stop at Crazy Bowlz, the health food store and Five Below before heading home. Each place is a minefield, fraught with memories of Ana, haunted by the ghosts of Sunday errands we took for granted. As I leave the final store, I think about how we couldn’t go to more than one or two places in the last few months. It was too much for Ana. I think back to when Ana was healthy enough to walk through the entire mall and still beg to stop at Barnes and Noble. I remember how I used to get stressed and annoyed with the girls –I would yell at them when they fought or asked me to buy too many things. “I’m sorry, Ana,” I whisper.
I don’t let the tears come again. Emily is already on edge, watching me for any sign of sadness. I know she’s sad too. We’re both content with our purchases, but utterly drained from the barrage of memories and emotions (and strep). When we finally head home, it’s as if we’re fugitives, fleeing from something awful and relentless. I’m proud of both of us, but I miss Ana more than ever. I find myself hoping, with a kind of desperate futility, that it gets easier. It has to get easier.